HiFi Rose RS520 Streaming Amplifier Page 2

HiFi Rose says its streaming amp has been tested with Samsung SSDs, and that others (specifically those made by Intel) may not work – this is no great hardship as, at the time of writing, a 4TB Samsung drive retails for about £260, and a 2TB one around £160. With an internal drive fitted, or a USB one attached, it's possible to connect a USB CD drive and use that to rip discs to the storage.

sqnote Control And Detail
As is usual with HiFi Rose products, the RS520 offers a staggering range of settings within its menus, including PCM resampling and digital filter options and, via that front-panel display, a virtual graphic equaliser function. However, I was keen to get on with some listening, which I kicked off with a DSD rip of Buggles' The Age Of Plastic [Island UIGY-9533], an album very much of its time – 42 years old – but still demonstrating the exemplary production standards that originally set it apart. Driving my Neat Iota Xplorer loudspeakers [HFN Jul '18], the RS520 delivered surefooted control and detail, but above all was massively enjoyable, with deep, tight bass and excellent insight into all the layers of the mix.

Keeping the fun sound going, the soundtrack of The Get Up!, the Madness lockdown special [Union Square/BMG B0BG6F5L65], shows the amp's ability to convey the band's organised chaos. The sheer vitality of the music, and its interjections, is all part and parcel of the live Madness experience, especially in this string of big hits recorded at the London Palladium in 2021. More than 45 years after forming, Suggs and Co. are still clearly having a blast, notably in an 'audition' of Paul Weller on 'The Harder They Come', so the power and clarity of the RS520 provides a constant temptation to wind up the level and enjoy it even more.


Line in/pre out (RCAs) are joined by optical and coaxial digital in/outs, HDMI in/outs (with eARC), an Ethernet port, three USB-A ports for external media and one USB-B for computer connection. Loudspeaker cable is connected via 4mm terminals

Still retro, but a bang-up-to-date recording, Bruce Springsteen's cover of 'What Becomes Of The Brokenhearted', from Only The Strong Survive [Columbia 19658756572], sees the RS520 delivering the singer's hoarse, careworn growl with real character against the big, lush arrangements. His take on 'The Sun Ain't Gonna Shine Anymore', with co-producer Ron Aniello playing almost everything except the orchestral parts, is clearly a labour of love. Yes, The Boss meeting the Motown/Philly sound is an incongruous mix, but boy is it a great listen!

The RS520's combination of extended bass and tight control was employed to good effect with the recent remastering of Queen's 1989 album The Miracle [EMI download; 96kHz/24-bit]. Here the bass and drums of John Deacon and Roger Taylor power the funk of 'The Invisible Man' and the headlong rush of 'Breakthrough', with both Freddie Mercury's vocals and Brian May's guitars sounding as charismatic as ever. It's a punchy, rich production, further illuminated by the demos, out-takes and alternative versions on the Collectors' Edition, where the RS520 is in its element, revealing so much while driving so hard.

Take It For A Drive
I also tried the analogue and digital inputs of the RS520 using an iFi Audio ZEN Stream as a source, but could hear no real advantage over HiFi Rose's own network platform. However, those inputs would be more than good enough should you want to use an external CD player, for example, but then there's always the USB drive alternative. Henley Audio will sell you the HiFi Rose RSA780 USB-attached CD drive (£349), but with limited listening I have to say my inexpensive Samsung drive, which has served me well on my computer for the odd rip or burn, was sounding pretty good connected to the streaming amp.

It's easy to get blinded by all the features on this ultra-flexible streaming amplifier, but really it's at its best when you just kick back and let it do its stuff, as one might hope given its appeal to the 'just add speakers' buyer. Playing Tianxu An's reading of Tchaikovsky's 'Scherzo-Fantaisie in E-flat Major' [Alpha ALPHA855; 96kHz/24-bit], the RS520 displays a pleasing lightness of touch, making every note sound convincing, while also having all the dynamic power to bring out the scale and presence of the instrument. And it brings that same balance of qualities to the Dave Brubeck Trio's charging version of 'Take The 'A' Train' on the remastered Live From Vienna 1967 [Brubeck Editions BELP20220301], with Joe Morello's drums sounding especially tight and gutsy.


Although the RS520 can be accessed via the Rose app, this handset also offers comprehensive control provided you can view your operations on the large colour display

Fullscale Fun
This hugely enjoyable component seals its all-rounder status with the way it can handle large-scale orchestral music, both in the detail and ambience it elicits from concert-hall recordings and its rendering of power and weight. With the orchestra getting a full workout on 'The Perfect Stranger' [Boulez Conducts Zappa; Rykodisc RCD 10542], from tuned percussion to harp and the big drums, the RS520 delivers an enveloping and wonderfully dramatic presentation that can still surprise even on repeated listening.

Hi-Fi News Verdict
Having delivered fine-sounding network players and an amplifier, HiFi Rose brings it all together in this highly accomplished all-in-one unit. There's plenty to play with, or you can just connect your favourite speakers and get on with enjoying the music. Highly flexible, and packed with features you'll use – plus some you probably won't – this a superb contender in what is a fast-growing sector of the market.

Citech Co., Ltd
South Korea
Supplied by: Henley Audio Ltd, UK
01235 511166